13 January 2008

The Normal in Paranormal...

I was raised on preternatural fiction where the paranormal was hidden from the masses and everything that happened was covert and known only in legend. If mortals did happen to know about the creatures who slunk through the night, it was usually because they hunted them. Whether given holy charge by “the church”, or enlisted by an elite group within the government, the handful of warriors holding the truth were vigilant and ready to come to the rescue whenever the need arose. The rest of the world was clueless outside of gypsies, psychics, goths and various “fringe” groups who counted creatures of the night among their unending conspiracies.

Then fiction changed. More and more often stories began to emerge where the paranormal was part of the normal. These alternate realities where the grocer up the block is part goblin and the night watchman at your bank is part vampire began to grow in popularity and I found myself beginning to prefer them. When I stopped to look at where the appeal originated; I realized that we live in an age of instant communication and a known preternatural community seems more realistic.

It’s harder to believe that a vast global coterie of vampires, werewolves, demons, faeries, necromancers or anything else could exist and do their world machinations without ever being caught. I mean honestly, you know that the local cabal would be featured on a YouTube video before they could say carpe nocturne. So a world where everything is out in the open seems like the kind of thing that could happen.

If all of our “unknown phenomena” were to stand up and announce themselves tomorrow, we’d get caught up in trivialities of them and leave plenty of room for their more nefarious doings to go unnoticed. That’s not to say that they still wouldn’t get caught from time to time, but just as our human governments hide secrets, the preternaturals would be able to spin it all by giving us smaller sins to dwell on while the larger ones stayed behind the curtain.

I’m still drawn to stories where there’s a small handful of clannish shapeshifters, or a rare breed of non-traditional vampire that have been very careful to keep secrets on the down low. I also like the middle ground of the “open secret” where nothing has been revealed on the news, but there’s no doubt that more is going on than meets the eye and everyone knows it.

But more and more, I find the rich worlds built around an open truth and the search for acceptance within it to be a fascinating study of human behavior. Sometimes it’s done directly with a human protagonist at the center of things, but there’s the growing phenomenon of the non-human protagonists reacting to the world around them and their place in it. It allows Urban Fantasy to explore the same social mores once the sole province of Science Fiction.

How do you think the current wired world has impacted fantasy, and is it for good or ill in your opinion?

Modern Paranormal Ramble Done



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